Smooth traffic at the Causeway on Friday evening despite long weekend

SINGAPORE - Higher toll charges may have kept some travellers away this long weekend with motorists experiencing smooth traffic on the Causeway on Friday evening.

A check by The Straits Times between 4pm and 7pm found that traffic was moving along generally quickly.

Mr Junaid Qureshi, 38, a businessman, said he cleared the checkpoints in just 15 minutes, a process that usually takes him at least half an hour in the late afternoons. He had expected it to take even longer because it was the start of a long weekend with Friday being a school holiday (Children's Day) and Monday a public holiday to observe Hari Raya Haji.

"Even on a normal afternoon there are more cars," he said referring to the handful of cars parked at a petrol kiosk at 4.30pm.

On Oct 1, toll charges were raised by Singapore from $1.20 to $3.80 for cars leaving the country. And while it was previously free to enter Singapore, it now costs $2.70. In combination with tolls levied by Malaysia on Aug 1, a two-way trip by car now costs around $13.

Retailers however are optimistic that things might pick up on Saturday. Mr Noor Kadir, 58, owner of Olivers Fresh Mart, said it has been a dull Friday, with sales being 10 per cent lower than usual Fridays.

"But I think more people will come after 9pm or tomorrow morning (Saturday)," said Mr Noor who usually sees 20 to 25 per cent more customers during the Hari Raya holidays.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) had warned travellers that they may experience heavy traffic till Monday.

It advised travellers to adjust their travel patterns - including carpooling and using the automated clearance system at the bus halls - to avoid the surge at the checkpoints. The ICA added that it will open more counters for immigration clearance if needed.